Update on Instream Flow Policy

To All,

Instream flow comments still being accepted Comment period extended on coastal stream flow proposals

A public comment period that was supposed to close this week has been extended to May 1 regarding a state policy for maintaining instream flows in Northern California coastal streams.

The State Water Resources Control Board in December released a draft of the new policy that if implemented could affect municipalities and landowners from the Sonoma County Water Agency to small winegrowers who divert water from the Russian River and its tributaries.

New and not-yet-permitted but existing stream diversions (dams) could be restricted or banned by the state policy that is looking at ways to ensure there is sufficient water flowing in North Coast waterways to support a healthy native salmon and steelhead fishery that is now on the federal endangered species list as threatened with extinction.

Some recently built agricultural dams may not be allowed and older existing dams may need improvements to aid fish passage, according to the draft policy that is being closely watched by local winegrowers, some of whom are diverting stream water for irrigation and other agricultural uses without a required state permit.

State water officials acknowledge there is some uncertainty in exactly ‘Äúhow much water can be diverted without adversely affecting fish habitat,’Äù said the draft policy released in december.

There are now more than 300 applications to take surface water in the policy area that includes five counties ‘Äî Marin, Sonoma, and parts of Mendocino, Napa and Humboldt counties. A draft of the policy and other information on efforts to maintain instream flows are available online by Googling the state Water Resources Control Board.

–Larry